Up Close @ SMX Advanced: Rethinking Retargeting

Retargeting is one of the most effective techniques in paid search and display advertising. The concept is straightforward. The site owner puts a piece of code on their site or on certain pages on their site. When a visitor lands on the page with the code, the visitor is “tagged” with a cookie. If the […]

Chat with MarTechBot

Retargeting is one of the most effective techniques in paid search and display advertising. The concept is straightforward. The site owner puts a piece of code on their site or on certain pages on their site.

When a visitor lands on the page with the code, the visitor is “tagged” with a cookie. If the visitor then leaves the site, they may later see ads about the site so the site owner gets a second chance to convert the visitor.

The reason retargeting is so effective is that with retargeting you only target users that have visited your site so they are already familiar with your brand.

This increases the likelihood of a purchase. The concept is simple, but as in many areas of advertising, the devil is in the details.

The session “Rethinking Retargeting: Top Strategies for Driving Conversions from Key Audiences” at SMX Advanced 2014 looked at cutting-edge ways to nail down those details to further improve retargeting efforts.

Rethinking Retargeting Session at SMX Advanced

Rethinking Retargeting Session at SMX Advanced

Ginny Marvin, Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land (@ginnymarvin) served as moderator for the session, and Jaclyn Jordan, Paid Search Strategist, Wordstream assisted as Q&A moderator.

The speakers for the session were:

Benny Blum: Audience Modeling & Display

Benny Blum kicked off the presentations by focusing on audience modeling and display advertising. He talked about the dilemma companies face when considering how to handle retargeting: whether you do it yourself or outsource it to a third party.

There is a cost/benefit analysis every company must undergo to make this decision, as running a solid retargeting program requires skills, infrastructure and patience. Given the newness of online retargeting as an marketing channel, many companies may not have the in-house expertise to extract maximum benefit from this approach without outside guidance.

Building A Good Audience

One of the more subtle factors in a successful retargeting campaign is creating a good audience. The “audience” is the list of people who have visited your website or a certain page on your website. Building out a variety of audiences can allow you to better tailor the creative to match where the visitor was in the buying cycle and allow for more comprehensive testing.

Benny shared that there are two main attributes that need to be considered when building out an audience. Specifically, those attributes are intent and value.slide-3-1024 (1)

Benny recommended using the Users Flow option in Google Analytics to provide a visual way to identify precursor events which could be later used in AdWords as part of the audience definition by applying the same filters.

Benny recommended building your own model if you had robust first-party tracking already in place. He believes that remarketing lists should factor in:

  • Geography
  • Product
  • Browser
  • Device
  • Operating system
  • Historical behaviors
  • Referral sources

First-party tracking enables custom segmentation across multiple sessions, devices, etc., which is not always available with 3rd-party tracking.

Adam Berke: Cross Device Opportunity

The second speaker was Adam Berke from AdRoll who focused on retargeting in a multiscreen world.

According to Adam:

Retargeting has become a must-have marketing channel for any online business. However, just as marketers were getting up to speed on best practices, browsing patterns began fragmenting across devices at an increasing rate. Now marketers are trying to figure out how to adapt their retargeting strategies in this cross-device world.

Adam explained that some marketers have been capturing intent data through the search box for years. This way was good, but Adam explained that there are many other ways to capture customer interest.

slide-7-1024 (1)

This first-party data includes the behavior of visitors on the site, and this data should be considered in targeting.

Adam talked about the strong shift toward social channels starting a few years ago.

The Facebook blind spot was a problem until two years ago when Facebook opened up Facebook Exchange. This allowed advertisers to market to site visitors who later went to Facebook.

Growth Of Mobile

Adam stated another shift is going on now toward mobile. People are no longer spending all their time on desktop, but instead are spending time on various mobile type devices. Adam mentioned the quote by Google VP of Display Advertising Neil Mohan where he said, “90% of consumer transactions are started on one device and finished on another.”

The challenge for marketers now is that the prevalence of mobile usage is outpacing marketers’ ability to leverage mobile search. People are increasingly comfortable buying on mobile devices so there is great opportunity.

Mobile Versus Desktop

Adam identified many of the differences between the mobile and desktop marketing environment, including different screen sizes, unique KPIs, less opportunity to serve ads, touch instead of click, app store distribution, software development kits (SDKs) versus pixels, and connectivity issues.

To win at mobile marketing requires a firm understanding of the mobile marketing objectives. Adam described the four main mobile objectives:

  • Cross Device Retargeting – Continuing to do what you were doing with desktop retargeting and move it to mobile.
  • Driving App Installs – Retargeting makes perfect sense for people who already know your brand so these people would be the most likely to install an app from your brand.
  • Increasing Mobile Conversions – Improving the mobile users’ experience.
  • In-app Re-engagement – Getting users to engage with the brand once they’ve installed the app.

Bryant Garvin: Retargeting Diversification

The final speaker was Bryant Garvin, aka “Dr. House of PPC,” who talked about retargeting diversification. Bryant mentioned how retargeting is often done as an afterthought, which is unfortunate considering the power of retargeting.

Think Beyond Google

Bryant believes that diversity is stability. People are Google-myopic. They don’t consider that there are other places to target besides Google. He says there is a lot of risk in relying only on one supplier, and he encouraged marketers to look at other options, especially since Google limits the remarketing options in some verticals.


Tap Into Existing Knowledge

Bryant talked about how the idea of building audiences isn’t new. Email marketers, CRM and loyalty program marketers have been building out audiences for years.

Bryant encouraged marketers to take the email, CRM, and loyalty program managers out to lunch to learn about what they already know about the company’s audiences. He said teaming with them could improve your retargeting.

For example, he suggested embedding the pixel for retargeting in an email and piggybacking on the company email manager’s knowledge and existing email list.

Bryant talked about Facebook advertising. He particularly liked the website custom audience feature and layering it with traditional Facebook targeting. This combination allows you to segment more precisely.

Approach Search Retargeting With Caution

Bryant touched briefly on search retargeting – where you can target visitors who search on Google. He said you can get excellent CPCs, but you need to be careful how you do this. Specifically, he recommended you only work with reputable vendors and follow best practices.

He additionally warned marketers to be careful with Demand Side Platforms (aka DSPs – services which allow an advertiser to manage marketing campaigns across multiple venues through a common interface). Ensure you understand their minimums and fuzzy math to make sure you hit those minimums.

Bryant strongly suggested not accepting a “blind” account – an account where you can’t see the setup. Make sure you can get in and see the specific parameters used in the account’s setup. He warned that he has seen instances of the accounts being poorly and lazily thought out and implemented. Visibility into the implementation helps ensure you get the most out of the platform.

Track Everything

Bryant also talked about tracking the timing of ads and how recency matters greatly in retargeting. Bryant recommended reviewing cookie windows and tweaking the duration to improve performance. By tracking the conversions over time you can get an idea on the effectiveness of continuing to show ads.

Bryant told about a case study where they tracked ads being shown for a 30-day period. The conversion rate dropped off dramatically during the last eight days of the time period.

Since they had the data to confirm this drop-off, they shortened the time when the ads were shown to 22 days and by making that simple change, the CPAs dropped by 45%. Bryant stressed that you have to track the data or you won’t be able to take advantage of opportunities like this.

Bryant emphasized the importance of organizing audiences. He said that in one advertisers’ campaign he changed the audience from visiting product pages rather than category pages and reduced the CPA by around 15% to 20%.

Taking a finer-grained slice of the audiences can increase the implementation load, so one needs to balance the upfront cost of implementation against the ongoing benefit and the opportunity cost against other actions one could be taking in the account.

Bryant also recommended leveraging catalog lists with DSPs, taking the offline data & correlating it with online.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Christine Churchill
Christine Churchill is the President and CEO of KeyRelevance.com, a full service online marketing agency that has been helping businesses succeed online for over a decade. Christine and her team of experienced search marketers offer a variety of services including Pay Per Click Management, Search Engine Optimization, Conversion Enhancements and Analytics Support.

Fuel for your marketing strategy.